Homes Under The Hammer's Martel Maxwell solves the 'mystery' of property with pile of toilets in front room

By Joanne Ridout

This double-fronted wreck waiting to give Homes Under The Hammer's presenter Martel Maxwell a soggy welcome under its leaking roof had quite a few extra items on offer in the sale to cause puzzlement.

The popular daytime BBC1 television show often showcases properties going to auction that are not only in a bit of a state but have extra surprises too, such as hidden fees, short leases and unseen structural problems not evident and not discovered by inexperienced property developers.

But over the last 24 series, few properties have surely offered the unique additions to the purchase that this run-down building revealed inside.

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And as Martel rightly says, whatever is in the property or on the land when the hammer falls you, as the buyer, inherit it.

So what was the bonus waiting for the next owner of this renovation project going to property auction for a guide price of £35,000?

Firstly, the cage on the front of the door suggested the building had been empty for a long time and the front door itself has definitely seen better days.

However, just a quick glance at the boarded up windows and gaps in the facade brickwork indicates that no Sherlock Holmes is required here to know the property has been empty for many years.

Not a great start.

Martel enters the property and is greeted by a room with a central feature - a pile of toilets and sinks, looking like an arrangement of contemporary art about to be entered into The Turner Prize, the annual prize presented to a British visual artist.

It's looking sad and empty (BBC)
Martel is shocked to be greeted by a gang of toilets (BBC)
Was it a former bathroom showroom or did a previous owner just have a unique hobby of collecting toilets and sinks? (BBC)

But fair play to Martel, and no need to call Sherlock on this one either, as she recons the property at some point in its history sold loos, and as she says herself - there's no flies on her.

The rest of the downstairs is a few rooms of crumbling plaster, damp, no services connected and a battered looking sink in one corner.

Upstairs the three rooms are of equally poor standard, with rotten windows, damp on ceilings, cracks down the walls and, ironically, no toilet or bathroom.

No services connected despite the corner sink (BBC)
Plenty of wall cracks and ceiling damp (BBC)
Lovely quarry tile floor but not likely to stay (BBC)

Outside, there's another surprise that a new owner will not expect if they broke one of HUTH's golden rules and bought without viewing the property prior to auction.

A vintage Morris Minor is quietly and sadly sitting in the backyard going the same way as the property, towards total dereliction.

Martel pops the bonnet but there's no hope here - it's going to need more than a jump start to get that baby back on the road.

The small backyard also has a collection of small brick and stone 'rooms' running along the wall - yup, it's more toilets. That's even more on-site bogs to bother you with a headache of what to do with them and the cost to dispose of them.

Who's got one of these in their garden? It came with the property so now Andrew and Jana do (BBC)
Martel is shocked to find there's a camera man or camera woman under the bonnet of the Morris Minor... (BBC)
Martel meets Andrew and Jana (BBC)

But this run-down building in Stoke-on-Trent that was flush with toilet choices, apart from one that's actually working, did not deter local couple Andrew and Jana.

It went to auction with a guide price of £35,000 and they secured it for £42,000 as a first time renovation project, but one that had a very unique future ahead of it.

The couple wanted to transform it into an oatcake business (that's northern-style pancakes). Sounds yummy.

And the transformation is yummy too, and pretty remarkable.

Oatbakers is in, the toilets are out (STOKE SENTINEL)
Vintage car is out, new gate and fencing is in (BBC)
Quarry tiles and damp are out, oatcake business is in (BBC)

The Homes Under The Hammer team returned over 18 months later in December 2020 to see how the couple had transformed the building through the Covid-19 pandemic.

At that time, Andrew told Stoke Sentinel: "The pandemic hit and it was harder to get the parts that we needed. Everything took double the time.

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"I was furloughed earlier in the year for about two months, and when I went back to work, the lads were asking if I’d finished the shop yet.

"It's been a long process. The property had been completely abandoned for about 50 years - no one had used it at all."

Store room (BBC)
Mixing room (BBC)

So the extended timescale to 18 months is understandable, especially as to save money Andrew did most of the work himself.

He also got creative when thinking of ways to save money, offering the Morris Minor to a father and son vintage car enthusiast duo who, in return for the car, helped to clear the backyard.

Back inside the property and downstairs there's now a mixing room, the shop where the oatcake magic happens and the customers can watch the tasty delights be created, plus a storeroom and kitchen area.

Office upstairs (BBC)
Extraction room upstairs (BBC)
Toilet upstairs - and yes, it is a brand new one (BBC)

Upstairs there's an office and an extraction room so oatcake smells don't take over the local vicinity.

And yes, there's a bathroom now up here too.

But no, the toilet in the bathroom is a new one, not a recycled one from the former pile of them downstairs - Andrew's not so thrifty as to do that.

The budget more than doubled to over £60,000 partly due to unforeseen problems and a new roof, the extraction gear and also the purchase of a three metre long, 15 burner hotplate that needed eight men to get it into the building, carrying it in pieces.

The couple have achieved their dream despite the pandemic (STOKE SENTINEL)
The couple next to the beast 15 burner oatcake creator (STOKE SENTINEL)

At the time the programme returned in December 2020, the property was only valued at £80,000 when the couple had spent a total of around £102k.

But this was because the business had yet to start trading, which of course impacts the resale value at that specific time.

The value of the property containing a business increases as that business begins to grow.

Now the business, called Oatbakers, is thriving and the couple have even had a chance to have some time off, having recently travelled to Wales, spreading the Oatbakers word with a trip up Snowdon in branded gear.

Stoke Sentinel can tell you all about the opening of the couple's oatcake shop here.

Homes Under The Hammer is on BBC 1 every weekday currently from 11.15am, with selected episodes also on BBC iPlayer.

The episode that contained this story is series 24 episode 31.

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